Playground of the rich, metropolis of the future, and home – it seems – to half the population of Essex… Welcome to Dubai.
Where there’s sun and money, the C-list schlebs will follow. Fame-hungry Abbey Clancy’s on the beach over yonder straddling a camel and posing for the paps, and pearly-toothed Mark Wright (whoever he is) is busy filling his boots at the free hotel buffet.
Basically, our hotel has become the setting for an entire episode of TOWIE.
Getting some winter sun comes at a high price. Surrounded by cranes, skyscrapers and garish opulence, the husband put it like this: ‘It’s basically Disneyland in the desert. But instead of Mickey Mouse on the prowl you’ve got fake sheikhs on the take.’
Seriously though, we are very happy here sipping ruinously-expensive cocktails, lapping up the rays and reading our books, save for an annoying man next to us whose mobile appears to be surgically attached to his ear. His latest call was to Carl Cox.
‘Alright Coxy,’ he bleated in a Jonathan Ross voice. I was surprised he could speak at all given the mouthfuls of food he was shovelling in in a most slovenly manner. (Seriously, eating lunch on your sunbed – is there no decorum left?) ‘I’ve told them it’s £150,000 for a four-hour set. They’re getting back to me.’
Hot on the heels of bumping into some parents from school (‘What are the chances?’), the husband then decided that there might be someone he knows reclining on the sun lounger behind us.
‘Take a long look at him and report back,’ said the husband, in hushed tones.
‘Thinning grey hair, rather challenged around the waistline, looks just like the old dude off Ray Donovan,’ I said, covertly peering from behind my shades.
‘Thats him!’ said the husband. ‘Let’s hide.’
There’s been a lot of talk from the husband of what to do on New Year’s Eve.
If it was up to me, I’d be tucked up watching the final episode of Homeland in my new cashmere bed socks, perhaps taking an occasional glance at the fireworks through the window.
This option, however, has been vetoed by the husband, who appears to have succumbed to the age-old pressure of What To Do On New Year’s Eve.
This might mean we are forced to spend an obscene amount of money on a set menu in one of Dubai’s fine eateries. Naturally, I’m doing everything in my power to stop this.
Our hotel, which lurks in the shadow of the Dubai Mall – a great sprawling behemoth of consumerism – has published a handy guide on what to do for New Year’s Eve.
Every restaurant in the vicinity has a minimum entry fee and, worse still, you have to be there by 4pm at the latest! That’s eight hours of wining and dining before the chords of Auld Lang Syne even strike up. I was having palpatations just thinking about it.
I idly flicked through the booklet. Carluccios had a set menu for AED 625 (about £125), TGI Fridays were charging a staggering £300, Fortnum and Mason were a snip at around £200, and Starbucks were charging £100.
Wait… Starbucks?! Home to overpriced wishy-washy coffee. What could possibly be on this £100 set menu? Stale blueberry muffin for starters, anaemic mozzarella panini for the main, and one of those sickly caramel waffles for dessert – all washed down with a tepid milky latte?
Luckily, fate has intervened… in the form of The Club. The Club is a newly-discovered lounge in our hotel which serves up FREE afternoon tea, FREE snacks 24-7, and FREE food and drinks by night.
Note the emphasis on free. In a city where you have to sell a kidney to buy a gin and tonic, this is quite remarkable.
The husband and I made our first trip to The Club last night and enjoyed champagne cocktails and chilled glasses of Sauvignon – all on the house.
All around us people were hungrily slurping their free drinks and tucking into the rather sizeable buffet. A man in scruffy tracksuit bottoms and a t-shirt shuffled past, plate piled high.
‘Look at that,’ I whispered. ‘These people aren’t even bothering to change out of their slobs. They’re just here for the free food and drink!’
‘That’s Mark Wright from TOWIE,’ said the husband, who to my knowledge has never watched an episode of reality TV in his life.
‘He’s really big news’.
As if on cue, a gaggle of tipsy women raised their Cosmpolitons and chorused, ‘Hi Mark’ in unison as he passed.
‘Never heard of him,’ I said.
‘Here’s the plan,’ I told the sceptical husband. ‘We come to The Club for New Year’s Eve. We’ll gorge on the buffet, quaff the champers and watch the fireworks from the balcony. And best of all, it won’t cost us a penny!’
‘There’s just one problem,’ said the husband.
‘I’ve already booked Starbucks.’